President Joe Biden took the time during a speech Thursday to express his condolences to the mourning family of Jo-Ann Stores CFO Matt Susz, whose sudden death had just been announced the day before.
However, the tribute fell flat for many observers after the president said Susz had “dropped dead.”
The moment occurred during remarks ahead of Biden signing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 at the White House, where members of Congress and company executives were in attendance to celebrate the new law aimed at lowering shipping costs on U.S. goods.
In addressing Jo-Ann Stores CEO Wade Miquelon, who was present for the gathering, Biden said, “By the way, my sympathies to your – the family of your CFO, who dropped dead very unexpectedly. My best to their family, that’s tough stuff.”
The president’s sentiment appeared heartfelt, but once clips of his comments began circulating online, users weighed in.
Reactions ranged from several memes of people cringing to critics saying that Biden’s gesture was “pretty heartless“, “very unsympathetic” and “very uncouth.” Some people joked that the words “dropped dead” would never be seen on a sympathy card, while others called the fumbled attempt at condolences embarrassing.
Biden is known for extending his sympathies and words of comfort to loved ones who have lost family members. He has had great losses in his own life, including the tragic deaths of his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, and his son Beau who died of brain cancer in 2015.
The president has also long been prone to gaffes, some of which have been dismissed by supporters as an innocent part of his nature, and others seen by critics as potentially damaging to the U.S. on the world stage.